5 Ways To Protect Your Credit Score

Dated: 04/09/2015

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Buying a house is one of the most demanding financial and physical tasks anyone will ever take on. The home loan is very likely the largest and longest loan the average consumer will ever borrow from a lender. It’s no surprise lenders are demanding and careful in approving a mortgage. One of the most crucial things you will do on your journey to homeownership is to get your credit house in order. The second most important thing you will do is protect your credit score both before and after securing the loan.

You already know the basics of nurturing a good credit score; things like paying the bills on time and checking your credit report regularly. But there are additional steps you can take to protecting your credit score from disaster, and these steps won’t take an oversized chunk of your time.

#1: Stop Fraudulent Purchases Quickly

Identity theft is a lot like a house fire; we know it’s a possibility, but we never think it will happen to us until it does. According to a recent survey conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, one incident of identity fraud happens every three seconds. In the next 30 minutes, roughly 600 people will become a victim of identity fraud. Startling, isn’t it?

Credit card companies and financial institutions police accounts on a regular basis, ever on guard against possible fraud. Just about everyone has received at least one call from the bank, asking if we were aware of an unusual purchase. There’s a reason these institutions monitor accounts; they know catching fraud early minimizes the damage and makes it easier to clean up. But they can’t always catch every occurrence. You need to be proactive.

Stop fraudulent purchases quickly. How? Check every transaction in your credit card accounts. Make sure you either made the purchases or authorized them. If you see any purchase you were unaware of, contact the credit card company and report it immediately. By promptly handling fraudulent purchases, you can rapidly catch and clean up a case of identity fraud or theft.

#2: Understand Gray Charges

A gray charge isn’t really a fraudulent charge. It’s an unexpected expense the cardholder never intended to make. These charges are often so small they escape scrutiny if you fail to check each transaction.

Gray charges frequently happen by accident. For example, in signing up to receive a “free” credit report or score, you later see you also signed up and authorized a credit monitoring service costing $14.95 per month. Another type of gray charge is a canceled membership that is still being billed, even after the cancelation has been confirmed.

Small charges falling into the gray zone add up. According to a study conducted by the Aite Group, gray charges on credit and debit cards in 2012 totaled over 14 billion dollars! Do yourself and your credit a favor, monitor your accounts for gray charges and handle them. These small amounts can cause huge future problems if left unattended.

#3: Look For Errors

Everyone is human, even the folks running credit card companies. It’s not unheard of for a credit card issuer to make errors on transactions or fees. Sometimes the error isn’t even caused by human error; it was a computerized glitch.

You can protect your budget from unexpected fees and your credit from unpaid charges by watching for errors and acting to have them corrected. Maybe you paid your bill an hour before midnight on the due date and were incorrectly charged a late fee because their system reset. Maybe you were charged for a paper statement when you only receive an online statement. Maybe a transaction was incorrectly billed twice.

Look for errors. Call the credit card company. State your case, and if you aren’t satisfied with the response or action, ask to speak to a supervisor.

#4: Plan a Budget

Overspending is one of the biggest obstacles between first-time homebuyers and making their first purchase. If you constantly overspend, you might consistently pay bills late or overlook them altogether. Before you know it, your credit score is headed in the wrong direction thanks to an issue that is amazingly simple to remedy.

Plan a budget and stick to it. You don’t have to be a financial guru to do it. All you need to do is make a log of your incoming and outgoing money. Then, plan a budget. It’s the simplest means of capping overspending.

#5: Monitor Your Balances

Reminding yourself of your current balance will help you stick to your planned budget. Most financial institutions have mobile apps, and you can use them to check your balance at a moment’s notice. If you track your expenses and monitor your balances regularly, you’ll be on target for keeping to your budget and catching signs of fraud.

These simple steps will help nurture and protect your credit score. If you practice them before and after buying a house, you will open the door to greater opportunities in the future, like purchasing your second home.

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Chenea Powell

Whether it is your first home or the home you plan to retire in, I will be there to ease the process every step of the way! I find great pleasure in helping people achieve their goals in real estate a....

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